Several weeks ago I received a stunning phone call informing me that following a rigorous, data-driven, and secretive process, Walla Walla Community College had been selected by philanthropist MacKenzie Scott to receive a $15 million grant to assist us in fulfilling our mission.
While we don’t have access to the formula used to determine our qualifications, we have no doubts why Walla Walla Community College was selected. We have a long history of providing extraordinary education to our communities, including to communities of color, first-generation college students, and other historically under-served populations.
We have a tremendous network of support and partners throughout the region, from the Walla Walla YWCA, which also was a recipient of a grant from Ms. Scott, to all of the other non-profits, community-based organizations, government entities, and private firms who engage with us on a regular basis to serve our students and our community.
In short, this grant was made in large part because of our relationships within the broader communities that we serve, and the decades of collaboration embodied in WWCC. Those partnerships convinced Ms. Scott that we are capable of making full use of her generous gift, and for that I am thankful to the community.
We are extremely grateful that Ms. Scott and her team of advisors counted WWCC among the colleges and non-profits doing significant work during one of the most challenging times we will ever collectively face.
In explaining her decision to gift $4.1 billion to 384 organizations, Ms. Scott referenced her desire to join the many people who have stepped up to help both their neighbors and total strangers during the pandemic.
This made me think about the many people in the communities we serve who have heeded the call to help WWCC students. That includes the donors who made it possible for the Walla Walla Community College Foundation to offer Emergency Financial Aid Grants to more than 1,200 students, as well as nearly 600 need-based scholarships, just this year.
It also includes WWCC faculty and staff, many of whom are also donors to the WWCC Foundation, and who regularly offer additional time and encouragement to struggling students or colleagues.
Even in the midst of these dark days, our donors and supporters have been steadfast champions for this college. Collectively, they’ve brought a beacon of hope as our partners in this important work that we do.
Seven years ago, Walla Walla Community College was awarded the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. That recognition benefited our college enormously.
It affirmed the good work we do and encouraged programs designed to educate our students to compete and excel in a changing economy.
The Scott grant marks another transformational opportunity for our college. Short-term, it will help us continue to rise to the challenges posed by the pandemic. Long-term, this grant becomes the foundation for ongoing investments in innovation, empowering us not only to dream big for our students and the communities we serve, but to realize those dreams.
This extraordinary gift builds upon the reputation and expertise embodied at WWCC. From my perspective, this gift strengthens our role in this state and region. It also makes us all the more accountable for fiscally responsible practices and planning.
Because the college received confirmation of this grant just recently, our plan is to take the time necessary to make thoughtful decisions about how we will invest these dollars. We will do this in consultation with the WWCC Foundation’s Board of Governors, the WWCC Board of Trustees and other stakeholders, including our community members. The college-wide strategic planning process will inform these discussions as well.
During the first three years, the college will be required to file annual reports regarding our use of the grant dollars.
These reports will highlight how our investments reflect the values eloquently set forth by Ms. Scott. They include racial and gender equity and inclusion as well as economic relief, and training/education, particularly for communities of color.
This has, indeed, been a historic year for WWCC. I am heartened to be able to close it out with a deep and abiding feeling of gratitude, both to Ms. Scott and to each and every one of you who has demonstrated your belief in, and support of, Walla Walla Community College and our students.